Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's the best time of year at WDW?

What's the best time to visit Walt Disney World? This is an important question because when you visit Walt Disney World can greatly effect your vacation experience. Personally, I've always considered there to be four distinct times of year in Walt Disney World, and they correspond loosely with the seasons - but not exactly so.

I'm thinking about this topic because after having just completed the "holiday season" at The Mouse, we're moving quickly toward actual spring time (although the weather hasn't felt that way!) and things change greatly between those two times of year. But in Disney terms, one major "spring" event has already taken place (ESPN The Weekend), and one is about to begin (International Flower and Garden Festival). This has me wondering about which season I truly love the most at WDW? And if you're planning a visit, which time of year should you choose?

Brian and Hope at the Flower & Garden Festival
3 years ago (see the wand!).

They all definitely bring great things to the table. However, they all have cons as well. I guess this affects people more who have to pick and choose a certain time of year to come down and visit. Questions such as: which events do you want to see? What do you want to be able to do? What do you want to be able to experience that isn't available other times of the year? These are important to consider.

With that being said, let's compare with four main "seasons" in Disney World:

"Spring" (Slow) Season (mid-January through mid-late May)

Pros: Beautiful weather; Low crowds; Flower & Garden Festival; ESPN The Weekend; Comfortable "Strolling" atmosphere; Easier ADRs
Cons: Sometimes not hot enough to use water parks, water rides or pools

This time of year is wonderful, mostly due to weather. If you don't like the extreme Florida heat, this is a great time to come. Also, if you like just enough heat to be able to enjoy your resort pool, this is a great time to come (especially the latter half of this season). If you like to be able to enjoy a Dole Whip or Premium Mickey Bar outside in the parks, this is also a great time to come. If you want to experience the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, come mid-April. If you want to experience ESPN The Weekend, come late-February.

These are all things that would make me want to visit this time of year - after the holidays and before summer break. The crowds are generally lighter (except for Spring Break and Easter), but most of all, it's the weather. This is the time of year to stroll the parks; to take your time and enjoy the details. Most of the time you can't do that and not sweat at the slightest movement. But spring time? Ohhh it's beautiful...enjoy all the all the sights and sounds...day or night.

"Summer" (Peak) Season (beginning of June through 3rd week of August)

Pros: Refreshing usage of water attractions, pools and water parks; Refreshing treats provide extra enjoyment; Ability to experience everything a standard WDW vacation has to offer
Cons: Insanely hot weather; Massive crowds; Limited dining options; Huge attraction lines

I must admit that this is my least favorite time of year at Walt Disney World, but there are still a lot of pros to a visit this time of year. Of course, two factors can make for a challenging time: extreme heat and extreme crowds. This is peak season; school is out all across the country and families take advantage by coming to The Mouse. And when you're shoulder to shoulder to thousands of people, it's bad enough - but when you're shoulder to shoulder and it's 98 degrees out - that's another thing. Summer in Florida usually creates that combination.

However, there's many things in Walt Disney World that was MEANT for summer fun. Walt Disney envisioned a complete vacation destination in sunny Florida for a reason, and water-based activity and sport was a big part of it. And the hotter it is, the better we like our water activities. Whether it's swimming at the pool at the Beach Club or Pop Century, or hitting the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon, or testing the water sports options at Fort Wilderness, Walt Disney World and water activities are meant for one another. Plus, ice cream tastes and FEELS a lot better when it's 90+ degrees out.

"Fall" (Slower) Season (Very end of August through Thanksgiving)

Pros: International Food & Wine Festival; More comfortable weather; Lighter crowds; Halloween decorations; Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party; Still have the ability to use water attractions and pools most of the time
Cons: Can still be extremely hot; May regret not going during Holiday Season when it's right around the corner with nicer weather

Yaaaaaarrrrrrr! Downtown Disney has offered
free trick-or-treating every Halloween

A lot is offered this time of year, but it really begins to rock and roll in mid-to-late October. In fact, the last week of October is when I would suggest to go. Not only is the weather beginning to cool down some from Florida summer highs, but Halloween is in full swing, as is the International Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. It's also still warm enough to use the pools, water rides, and water parks. But it's the special events that take place in the fall that take the cake. Food & Wine in particular is in my opinion the single best event WDW has to offer. And if you can throw in a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, that's highly recommended too.

The only possible con to coming this time of year is if it forces you to miss the Holiday Season, if you can only come down once. Other than that, Fall is an incredible time to be at The Mouse.

"Winter" (Holiday) Season (Immediately after Thanksgiving through beginning of January)

Pros: Cooler weather; Lower crowds (except from Christmas week through New Years Day); Beautiful Christmas and decorations and music; Special Christmas events going on at each park; Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Cons: Can be truly cold, not just cool, weather; Can't make as much use of water parks, water rides and pools; Short window of opportunity to visit without the massive crowds of Christmas week through New Year's Day

I still consider this my favorite time of year at The Mouse. Cooler temps, Christmas Decorations and park music, and a general change take place altogether. The first couple weeks of December is lighter crowds and you STILL have Christmas decorations and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Visiting the resorts becomes an event with what they do for the Holidays. The Holiday Storytellers at Epcot are wonderful as is the Osbourne Family Lights and Holiday Wishes. After doing Epcot at New Year's Eve this year, I can't imagine a better party. It's a different place this time of year.

That being said, if water parks, water attractions and pools play a big part in your WDW experience, they will be hard to come by this time of year. Sometimes the weather does get downright cold rather than cool, and it can be rather uncomfortable.

All in all, every season offers something great. But if you only have one longer trip to make in a year, the decision will be tough. Perhaps the solution is to make multiple shorter trips instead of one long one? Or to rotate the seasons you visit from year to year to experience the scope of it all.

Katie and Chance prefer the summer, because they love the water aspect of WDW. Hope loves the early spring because of the lower crowds the Flower & Garden Festival. I love the Holiday season and everything about it.


  1. I am a November/December/January girl myself. Summer is from H-E-double hockey sticks! I grew up going to Disney ONLY in the summer and it traumatized me. This past summer, my parents took 14 of us to Disney in July. I think that trip traumatized me more than the ones from my childhood!

    Fortunately, the rest of them were traumatized, too. LOL

    I will stick to my value season, lower crowds, milder temperatures times of year, thank you very much!

  2. That's right! Value season is another great reason to go almost any other time beside summer! :)